League Final Sets the Tone for Year Ahead

The physicality and intensity shown by Tipperary in the league final, two weeks ago now, will no doubt inspire the other members of the chasing pack. Maybe, and I emphasize maybe, there is a glimmer of hope in the hurling fraternity of stopping the march of Kilkenny.

The league final was enjoyable, very enjoyable. The two old foes really went at it with a vengeance, normally not associated with league hurling, even the league final. This was as close as one could have wished for to championship fare for this time of year.  The pressure was on Tipp, they had to perform, in their own backyard and especially after the events in Nowlan Park the previous month. Thankfully for everybody(even Kilkenny ironically enough) they did step up, in every sense. They upped their physicality and work rate, they really took Kilkenny on and not just in hurling terms. This definitely frustrated Killkenny, even though they still ended up on the right side of the result after extra time. They survived the ambush!

I’m sure Brian Cody will be delighted with their response after they conceding two early goals and losing the center back. Also, Tennyson hurled very well at center back when he came in, especially in the second half.  Richie Hogan came up trumps and has really put a marker down for a championship start.

From the Tipperary perspective there were many positives. Noel McGrath after a sluggish start, hurled very well, he is a real natural, he takes the correct options and gets into the right position. He understands the game and looks to have a long career ahead of him.  Other young guns in the Tipp ranks to impress were Paraic Maher and Brendan Maher in the half back line. Its a long time since Tipp have had somebody with the hands and ariel ability which Paraic Maher displayed. Brendan Maher is also very tidy on the wing, maybe lacking a bit of physique, but hes young and that will develop. Paddy Stapleton was very committed in the corner and has put his hand up for inclusion on May 31st. Thomas Stapleton at midfield got through a lot of work and as mentioned before could really develop a strong partnership with Shane McGrath. Paul Curran was very impressive at no. 3. Conor O’Brien found the pace of Eddie Brennan a bit much and this will probably put his position under pressure. Would they attempt moving Fanning to full and Curran to the corner, even though its very hard to move Curran after a display like that. Conor Mahony will most definitely come back and fill no 6 with Paraic Maher getting one wing and the other wing up for grabs between Shane Maher and Brendan Maher. Its in the forwards where tipp are short somewhat. none of their forwards hurled poorly in the league final, even Micheal Webster did what I would imagine Liam Sheedy expected of him. But Tipp need one or two more score getters, leaving Eoin Kelly aside. Tipp are building and definitely going in the right direction. Its good to see their intensity up and bringing a physical edge to their game, something which Tipperary followers have missed for a number of years now.

Kilkenny and Tipp meet again this Sunday evening in the Michael Hogan commemoration in Grangemockler. It will be interesting to see the line outs and the attitude of both teams. You would imagine you will see as close as possible to Tipp’s championship 15 Sunday evening.

One thing which everybody will take from the league final, especially Davy, John, Anthony, Denis, Colm, and Justin is that you must match Kilkenny physically at a minimum.  So the league final has set the tone for the year, expect intensity, shuddering physical challenges and some real ‘in your face’ clashes in the months ahead.

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